Friday, 14 December 2012

The Royal Victoria Hospital, Netley

The third of three military hospitals, and probably the most well known, the Royal Victoria Hospital, Netley.  It was opened in 1863 in open countryside overlooking Southampton Water, and cared for soldiers and other military personnel until its closure in 1966, the mighty building having become too unwieldy for modern day medicine.  Maybe another forty years on it would have been spared and converted into luxury living accommodation - would that have been better or worse? There are so many surviving images of the hospital, but here are just a few marking it through the ages.

Royal Victoria Hospital, more than 400 yards long from end to end

Jane Campbell Norman, Lady Superintendent, and her nursing sisters in the 1890s

One of the long front corridors being put to good use during the Great War

The distinctive windows are always recognisable in ward scenes

The British Red Cross Hospital, one of two hutted hospitals that grew up in the grounds during wartime

Post WW1 a nursing sister in the corridor with medal ribbons - I really wish I knew her name!

1926 - these men were probably still disabled as a result of the Great War

A museum and visitor centre are now housed in the central chapel which is all that exists today ...

... except of course for the large and beautiful cemetery, with burials from every phase of the hospital's life

Many men and women are remembered here, but these grave imprints show some of those who are nameless today

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

St. John Ambulance Brigade Hospital, Etaples

Several people have contacted me to say they liked the King George Hospital photos, so I thought I'd have a go at a couple more hospitals.  Firstly the St. John Ambulance Brigade Hospital, in Etaples.
Opened in September, 1915, and the most northerly of the run of hospitals at Etaples, it was said to be the best-equipped of all military hospitals on the French coast.

An interior of one of the wards, can be seen on this page from Canada:

Newfoundland Ward, St. John Ambulance Brigade Hospital, Etaples

 On the night of 31st May 1918 it suffered terribly during a German bombing raid and much of it was destroyed.

SJAB Hospital following the air raid of 31st May, 1918

The war diary of the Matron-in-Chief with the British Expeditionary Force, Maud McCarthy (TNA WO95/3990) reported:

There was a terrible raid right over the hospitals.  Practically all the Etaples hospitals suffered, those which had the most casualties being the St. John’s Ambulance Brigade hospital, where 1 Sister was killed and 5 wounded, besides many patients and personnel, the Liverpool Merchant’s Hospital (1 Sister wounded), No.24 General Hospital (2 of the nursing staff wounded, one severely), No.56 General Hospital, where there were no casualties amongst the nursing staff but the administrative block was almost destroyed, and No.26 General Hospital, as well as the two Canadian hospitals (Nos.1 and 7) which had suffered so severely before.  The St. John’s Ambulance Brigade Hospital,  which was beautifully equipped, is entirely wrecked. 

Several of the nursing staff received the Military Medal for their actions that night including the Matron, Constance Elizabeth Todd:

Miss Constance E. Todd

It was re-built, and once again opened for patients on 23rd October 1918, finally closing on demobilisation in January 1919.  Today it seems impossible that life and death ever took place here, but the beach at St. Cecile Plage is unchanged and a reminder of where nurses walked during their off-duty hours.

Former hospital site, Etaples

St. Cecile Plage


Sunday, 9 December 2012

King George Hospital, Stamford Street, London

I've accumulated quite a few images of nurses and hospitals, and here are some of King George Military Hospital, Stamford Street, London.  It was established in 1915 in the recently completed buildings intended for use as the new home for H.M. Stationery Office and Stores, and was converted and equipped as a hospital by public subscription. It had direct communication by underground tunnel with Waterloo Station, and although used for supplies, it's unclear whether they were ever used for transferring patients.  By 1917 its 1900 beds made it the largest military hospital in the United Kingdom to be contained within a single building.  There was no outside space, considered so important for the health and well-being of sick and convalescent soldiers, and to remedy that a large and surprising roof garden was created, giving an area for exercise and recreational use, and some of the best views in London. The buildings are still there today, now part of King's College, London.  A detailed account of the hospital can be found on the excellent 'Lost Hospitals of London' website:

Lost Hospitals of London - King George Hospital

The exterior of the building, Stamford Street, S.E.1

The very surprising roof garden, for walking, chatting and privacy

One of the wards, the unusual ceiling and windows always easily recognisable

And a very similar scene by J. Hodgson Lobley of the largest 71-bedded ward (IWM)